john pippus

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Nashville Trip: September 16th - 21st, 2006. This is a long read, so come back when you've got the time and settle in for the ride. If you've never been to Nashville, but have always thought about going, then you'll find this has some practical tips as well as give you a sense of what the place is like, particularly for aspiring songwriters.

Day One: Saturday

We don't hit a red light all the way to the airport. Not one. We're there in fifteen minutes more or less. The smooth sailing culminates with the goodbye kiss. I have heard about the new reality of airport lineups but being at the tail end of one brings a sobering reality to the, up until now, second-hand knowledge. The line curves around and doubles back and there you are - shuffling forward until you eventually get to the self-serve ticket counter 'for speedier service'. The young couple in front of me notices that up-and-coming band, Swollen Members have joined our queue. I sneak a look. They've got the rockstar sunglasses on but no instruments in sight. But that figures doesn't it? Aren't they rappers, or DJs, or something like that? I don't know their music, just their name.

After passing through the ticket counter, there is, to my surprise, another line to get into the area where you can line up again. Line #2 is longer than the first one. In all my times of flying, this line has never existed. But it does now. I'm standing there when a man goes by with his luggage and says over his shoulder to his wife, "Where's the end of the line?" She says "There is no end". But they continue on looking for where I have been some many long minutes ago. I breeze through customs. That's not a given since I'm in the US Immigration computers as being some sort of nefarious felon, courtesy of a long ago (July 1969, in Stanley Park, by a cop on a horse) arrest and conviction for possession of five joints. Do they still call them joints or are we back to calling them 'marijuana cigarettes' in this age of post-irony? But I have my FBI-issued card, called a Permanent Waiver Card, I got in the mid 80s and it's the magic wand that let's me fly to the zero -tolerance, drug-wannabefree fortress of the Paranoid States of America. PSA for short. I turn over my Permanent Waiver Card along with my passport and within seconds I hear the stamp in my passport followed by "have a nice visit".

The flight is OK. I'm crammed in the middle seat between two men, one large one slight. The large one watched me stow my guitar in the overhead and asks if I'm a professional musician. For a split second, just for a tiny second, I'm tempted to mumble 'yes'. (Swollen Members are sitting a few seats behind me, two white guys, a black guy and a scrawny guy I take to be their manager but for all I know he could be the drummer - assuming they have one. I'll have to google them and see how big they are). But I tell him no and say "I only wish". He loses interest and spends most of the flight doing Sodoku puzzles and whistling vacantly from time to time. And coughing a dry little cough he mostly sucks back in even as he's coughing.

I score big in the Denver Airport. Tip to the traveler: Seek out the Wolfgang Puck Express restaurant in the B Concourse. I had tortilla soup for five dollars. A rich tomato concoction sprinkled carefully with crushed tortilla chips, soft creamy goat cheese, and cilantro. But I could have ordered the three cheese macaroni and rotisserie chicken or a wood-fired oven pizza for under ten dollars.

Walking to my gate for the Nashville flight I see a sign that says "This facility uses audio and video surveillance". Well that's a first in this Brave New World. An open acknowledgement of audio eavesdropping on the general public. Video cameras I've gotten used to, as chilling as they might be. But watching what I say? That's a new one.

At this moment, I'm sitting at my gate typing on my laptop. This is my first trip with a computer. I've joined the others who seek out wall plugs. I haven't learned how to get online yet. There are wireless connections here in the airport but I can't do anything but access the Denver-sanctioned home page. I'll have to ask a fellow laptopper. Update: I asked the guy sharing the same wall plug. He said Denver Airport has their own wireless set up and you have to pay to get online. But he uses his phone. He's got something that lets him dial a number and that gets him online. Who knew?

So the Denver-Nashville plane is smaller than the previous one and doesn't have any place for my guitar. The lady steward… (god I can't say 'ess, what's the term, oh yes, flight attendant), the lady flight attendant has a flinty look. One I recognize. She wants to see my Larrivee go down in the hold. But the male attendant has a more reassuring tone. He'll find me a window seat for the guitar if he can. He can. Whew. I have to dispossess this little kid but it wasn't the kid's assigned seat anyway. He goes back across the aisle with his dad. Me and the guitar share a couple of seats together. Cozy.

Again, like on the previous flight I'm confronted with The Question. The dad leans across the aisle and asks hopefully, "are you a professional musician?" I don't want to disappoint so I play it slightly coy. I think for a moment and then say, somewhat ruefully (but somewhat cagily), "well I can't quit my day job but I'm writing, recording, performing". Which is true. It seems to be enough or else he knows how to hide his disappointment better than the last guy. I give him my CD as a thank you for having his boy move on my account. He seems really pleased and says he'll play it in his car on the way from the airport. Somewhere in Nashville my CD is playing tonight.

At the luggage carousel I notice someone unloading a couple of heavy cases that say "Bill Medley" on the side in felt pen. I look for the man himself but no luck.

I get the rental car. It's a V-6 Pontiac something-or-other. Not bad, since I only paid for the basic economy model. The picture on the website showed a tin can on wheels. This is definitely an upgrade.

I get a hotel room for the night. The Holiday Inn Express. I balked at the $129/night price, so I get the AAA rate of $116. It includes a continental breakfast. The room is great. Clean, plug-in for the laptop, no complaints here. Up to Jack's on Broadway for the best BBQ ribs. Went there twice in March on the first trip. Then a walk around the tourist area with all the country bars, blues bars, and the like. At the last minute I decide to drive over to the Belcourt Theater (an old movie theater built in 1925 in the university district) to see Nellie McKay. I've never heard of her but she gets a good write up in the local music paper.

She turns out to be bright, funny, attractive (Deborah Harry crossed with Jessica Lange), a talented vocalist and pianist. And quite quirky too. She knows a lot of celebrities, judging from her patter, and she has some dedicated fans in the three quarters full auditorium who know all the words to songs. In some cases, better than her, and more than once they bail her out. She's charming, in spite of her frequent lapses, and no one seems to mind. Her show ends with twenty or so fans sitting on the stage (and one on the piano stool beside the star) and we're all coerced into a bizarre singalong, which ends with an improvised line about hoping for a change in the Congress this fall. The show doesn't end, it sort of just stops with a Phish-like finish (her reference, not mine).

And that's Saturday in Nashville. Armed with only a title ("Heads You Win, Hearts I Lose") I head off to Sam's in the morning for a co-writing session. Let's hope some of that Nashville creative fairy dust falls our way.

Day Two: Sunday

Started with a morning run down a pretty much deserted Broadway, past Ernest Tubb's Record Shop, Gruehn Guitars, and then along the park path that parallels the Cumberland River, I go as far as the railway bridge and watch a long freight train going over it, thinking about how people used to watch the trains and probably think about hopping on if it was going slow enough just to get away somewhere new. Then I run back to the Holiday Inn and use the gym, get some of the fruit and juice from the breakfast area, and check out.

Meet up with Sam and move my stuff into his loft. So now my accommodation costs have been eliminated. We go in search of coffee for me and new strings for him. His phone rings and it's his friend Eric Sommer calling from a coffee place. He's just got into town. He plays 270 nights a year on the road. He earns a professional wage doing this year in, year out. Not bad pay for a singer/songwriter. But a hard slog. He drives up to 500 miles a day. He looks to be in his forties, never been married, never had a family. That's part of the deal when you decide to go on the road like that.

We share stories and jokes about banjo players. (What's perfect pitch? The sound of a banjo being thrown into a dumpster. What's the best way to play a banjo? With a hacksaw.) I tell my new joke I heard at the Belcourt the night before about James Brown in a taxi cab (the punchline is "Can you take me to the bridge! Can you take me to the bridge!). We hit the music store and I end up buying some strings too. Three packs for $15. We check out the acoustic room and jam a bit.

In the afternoon we go to a once-a-month pot luck held at a local songwriter's house that Sam knows about. The idea is to show up with a covered dish, your guitar, and spend the time playing and talking. There were about 50 people there, some with "cuts", others with "holds", some still trying to get something published, some beginners too shy to play in front of the main knot of people so they go off to the edge of the property or to a backroom. All kinds of people. It's casual and friendly. A lot of good music is played.

Hours later we go straight from there to the Bluebird Café. Five of us get a table right up by the stage and we hear eight songwriters who have auditioned for the privilege to play three songs each. That's what happens there on a Sunday evening. After that a featured songwriter plays a longer set. Tonight it was a guy named Gene Nelson. He's had many cuts, the one that got him his house is the hit he wrote for Kathy Mattea called "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses".

You only need to have one local contact when you get to a new city. That one person introduces you to who he or she knows and then you take it from there. Sam is the guy I know in Nashville. Now I know a whole lot more people here -- people I can and will co-write with, hang out with, or whatever -- than I did this morning.

Oh yes. We never did get around to writing something today. Just playing. Talking. And telling banjo jokes. Tomorrow night Sam and I are going to play the song we wrote on the last trip I was here at a songwriter's night that he has booked. But in the day we'll write.

Day Three: Monday

Day Three is Monday. That was yesterday. No time to say much at the moment because it is now the morning of Day Four and I gotta get going. But the shorthand version of yesterday is this:

Had a crappy sleep because the air mattress didn't have enough air in it. Sleep is important. I remember it well. Went to the NSAI office and a guitar repair shop on Music Row in the morning. Sam's guitar needed a set up to get rid of a buzz. Finally sat down in Sam's loft for a late morning co-write session. We got a good start on "Heads You Lose, Hearts I Win". I had the title and we went from there. I cannibalized some music I had from another effort. What I do to make it sound different is put the capo across only the bottom five strings on the fourth fret, leaving the high string open. Then when I play the standard G, C, and D chords they have a different sound. Played with a fingerpicking style, the combination sounds not half bad. We toss some ideas around and get a pretty good start on the song.

The afternoon, let's see, can't remember too much. Sam went to a meeting and I went out and ate sushi and bought some batteries and soap. Had a bath. Nothing too exciting.

As I write this, I'm on the plane from Denver to Vancouver. This is the first opportunity I've had to go back and fill in the rest of this diary.

Things picked up in the evening. Met Sam and his friend from New Jersey, Joe Ceriano. Joe knows everybody from the 60s to the 90s in rock show business. For one day he was the lead singer with Black Sabbath until he decided that his young family (this is back in the mid 80s) needed the stability he could only get from sticking with his work as a New York session singer. Joe is on a record with Placido Domingo. He sings one song on a Blue Oyster Cult album because the Cult's singer couldn't hit the range the song demanded and the record company wanted this song on the record. Something like that.. The song is called "Frankenstein". He formed a band with Earl Slick (David Bowie, John Lennon) in the early 80s called Silver Condor but they got a raw deal from Columbia Records and never got the push they needed. He has endless stories of people I've grown up listening too.

Joe reminds me a cross between Harvey Keitel and Dion. He's hip, funny, and has a gentle humanity about him. Joe has also suffered the one tragedy every parent fears most. In 1993 Joe's six-year old boy was killed in a traffic accident. His sister-in-law was driving their Volvo to the airport to pick up Joe and his wife. The car drove under a parked semi trailer. If the impact had continued three more feet their other son, three years old, sitting in the back seat would likely have been killed as well.

They waited at the airport then started making phone calls when the sister-in-law didn't show up. Eventually they made it to the hospital and were giving the news in the 'screaming room" as Joe called it, located near the emergency room. Joe tells me that 85 per cent of marriages end in divorce of couples who lose a child in tragic circumstances like this. His marriage is still intact. But the accident devastated him. He couldn't work. He couldn't think, or more likely he couldn't not think. For ten years, more or less, he has been laying low, staying at home for days at a time. But a timely reconnection with Sam through MySpace, led to Joe testing the songwriting waters again. He hasn't brought his guitar on this trip to Nashville. He didn't want to put pressure on himself he said.

I drive to the Bluebird Café out on Hillsboro Road to meet up with Sam and Joe. It begins to rain heavily as I get near the place. The line up is long but I see them near the front of the line and join them. Within a few minutes the doors open and we all troop into the 70 or 80 seat venue filling it up to standing room only.

There are so many songwriters who want to play the Bluebird that an elaborate system has been worked out over the years to accommodate everyone. As soon as you get inside you write your name on a blank piece of paper and put it the basket designated for first timers. If it's your second time here and you were not drawn to play the last time you were here, then you already have your piece of paper from last time. It has been stamped and you can put it in the basket for second timers. This group is guaranteed a slot for this evening. Whatever spaces are left over - no more than half a dozen of the sixty five names that went in the first timers basket - will get to play as well.

Sam and I get our names drawn. I hadn't planned on playing but with this unexpected "luck of the draw" I move into pre-performance mode. What should I play? Do I remember the words? The chords? Double check my choices. Mentally get ready. Sam was saving his turn for the following week when he and Joe would play. So it was just me. With the seventeen from the previous week and the half dozen of us lucky ones that would fill up the three hours of open mic. Everyone had time for two songs or nine minutes, whichever came first. It was being broadcast on the internet. You had to be ready to play, tuned up and near the stage when it was your turn. It was run with military precision by the no-nonsense Barbara Cloyd.

Since it would be a couple of hours before I got to play we decided to go to Brown's Diner for something to eat. The ton of maki sushi I had eaten earlier and the pre-performance edge dulled my appetite but I went along with the guys. Brown's has been a Nashville institution since the 30s. It looks like a dump. A run down trailer with an addition on back. Burgers are the main item. Faith Hill is a regular. And dozens of other recognizable stars. Joe introduces me to the bartender. Tells him I'm the co-writer of the first song Sam co-wrote in Nashville. That becomes a standard introduction over the next few days. In "She's The Hurtin' Kind" we needed a name of a late night restaurant where the song's main character would end up after another night of bad lovin'. We tried out some names - Red Bird Diner was one we made up - until we went with "…down at Brown's Diner". The bartender knows the story. Sam has made sure of that.

After dinner it's back down Hillsboro to the Bluebird and my moment with destiny. Or so I like to think. Look. This place is world famous. At least to anyone remotely connected with the Nashville music scene. Everyone has played here, from Garth Brooks to Dolly Parton to you name it. It's known as the place where the Nashville songwriters come to show what they can really do when they're not working their day jobs as staff writers where they have to adhere to formula writing. On my first trip to Nashville in March, we ended up at the Bluebird three nights out of seven, just because the music was so outstandingly good. And now I get to play here too.

I'm more nervous than I usually am. I gamble on doing a political song because I see the other performers all doing the standard she-done-me-wrong or she-does-me-right-and-I'm-so-happy-I-could-sing-about-it songs. In G. "Let's Legalize It" is a controversial, somewhat preachy song called written only a few weeks prior. Noticing that no one before me is acknowledging the rich history of where they are, I say how honored I am to be playing the Bluebird. Then I do my first song. I forget one line but since the narrator is a junkie it's not really out of character. It's an intense delivery, or so I imagine, and I can see faces watching me intently. At least I have their attention, for better or worse. Then to change the mood I say that my next song will be in keeping with the theme of the night and is therefore about relationships. That gets a small laugh. I do a decent job of "Blurry Photograph" but blow the second last line. It's frustrating to break the spell of the song by this stupid error but I remember the line soon enough to rush it in before delivering the last line.

Leaving the stage, someone at a front table says "nice songs, man". He doesn't have to say that so I'm encouraged. As I'm putting my guitar away, Tim, another songwriter I met on the first trip, comes over and expresses his admiration for my performance. Again, it wasn't necessary so I appreciate the feedback. Sam and Joe are ready to go to the next open mic at the Lyrix so we hustle on out of there. Joe says he loves the last song, and my delivery reminds him of Sting. But neither mention the first song. Later that night, they both finally admit they thought it was a mistake to do it. People don't want to be preached at they say. They agree that taking a chance is a good idea in theory, but sometimes when you take a chance you lose. I disagree. I'll wait to see it on the internet before I'll have a better idea if the song worked in that situation or not. It was definitely not cookie cutter and that might be enough.

So I've done it. I've played the Bluebird. Thanks to Sam.

Now we're at the Lyrix for yet another open mic or writer's night as they call them in Nashville. We're late for the sign up so we're not on until last. We sit through many many sets. So bad, some fair, some outstanding. By the time it's our turn the place is almost empty. Only the three staff remain and a three or four audience members. By now we're slightly punchy from waiting around so long. We're tired and loose and just there to have a good time. It's Joe's first time playing guitar in a month, he uses mine. All three of us are on stage at the same time. We harmonize and kibbitz on each other's songs. Joe does a gospel song he wrote called "Solid Ground". Sam and I do our best Baptist choir impersonation as backup. Sam does "She's The Hurtin' Kind" and I go for some high notes that would make Frankie Valli smile. I forget what songs I do. But it all feels right. Afterwards, someone says we sound good together. I think we do too. Joe obviously knows how to use a mic and work an audience. It's a great feeling standing in the parking lot laughing and reviewing the evening. At this moment, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, doing anything else, with anyone else. We call it a night.

Day Four: Tuesday

Joe arrives at Sam's. He's staying at the Comfort Inn (at $60/night) until I vacate the second loft. We walk down Second Ave. in search of breakfast. Sam lives in the honky tonk tourist part of Nashville. His reconditioned historic building is two doors away from Hooters. On the same block as the Wild Horse Saloon, BB King's House of Blues and other places that cater to tourists looking for that Nashville night of fun. A shill out front of The Ugly Coyote steers us in for breakfast. It's more like lunch time. I have tacos. Joe and Sam have some kind of burrito salad. It's bar food. Over the ridiculously long wooden bar are hundreds of bras. I don't know why. While we're eating, the young, blonde, suitably endowed female bartender breaks into a half decent karaoke of some uptempo country song I don't recognize.. The place is pretty much deserted at this early hour.

The stories these two New Jersey pals tell are wonderful. Stories about Springsteen. And Springsteen's sax player, Clarence Clemens (Joe cut six songs using Clarence,which seemed to piss off the Boss, Joe thinks. At least when Joe meets him the conversation is short). Springsteen's wife Patty Scialfa. "Her brother Mike didn't turn out so good. Always in trouble. They're from a wealthy family. The street lights in their part of town are specially designed". Joe remembers sitting with Patty at an audition for a commercial in Manhattan. This was back in '91. She was telling Joe what a hard worker Springsteen is and Joe teases her about maybe she's in love. Turns out he was on the money.

We go back to Sam's and the three of us work on a blues riff Sam has come up with. We don't get too far partly because Sam has endless stories to tell about this guy back in Jersey from the 70s who out partied everyone. A hard living musician who died recently from his excessive lifestyle. Sam figures the character in the song is like this loveable loser. The phone rings. It's one of Sam's kids back home wanting something. Sam is on the phone a lot the whole time I'm there. Often to his kids, sometimes to the many contacts he's made in Nashville since arriving there in March.

The stories keep coming. Sam says to Joe, " Remember Tony Peligrosi? Big fucker. I remember him holding some guy's head on the hood of a car. We called him Tony Pile of Groceries. I assume it's not to his face. Sam says, apropos of nothing that I can see, "Remember Bam Bam Bigolo? The wrestler?" And so it goes. They get each other going. I'm the audience. These two wiseguys from Jersey. Joe talks about his years in California back in the early 80s. Dating Howard Hughes last wife until he finally tells her that he'll call her, she doesn't have to call him. She's fifteen years older than Joe. This is when Joe is thirty and starting to think about kids and marriage and settling down.

In the afternoon Joe and Sam go to the NSAI office. I go for a walk and end up at the Frist Art Gallery. The gallery is in the old post office, an Art Deco building from the 30s built with FDR's New Deal money. It really is a great building, sitting empty for six years until it became what it is today. I pay $17 to see the current exhibit of Egyptian treasures. Three and four thousand year old artifacts. It's hard to switch gears from thinking about the Nashville scene which is always now and next week: the next deal, the current act looking for songs, who is hot, who isn't, to realizing that Egypt in its heyday was the pinnacle of civilization learning how to live in large groups. And how to organize their wealth, their beliefs in the afterlife, and in the hierarchy of power.

After a couple of hours there it's time to get with the evening's plans, arranged as always by Sam. I drive over to Bobby's Idle Hour on 17th Ave, in the heart of Music Row. It's a small, unassuming tavern. The bartender, a guy named Jonathan plays from 5 to 6 every Tuesday. That's who we are there to see. He is very good in a Marty Robbins kind of style. And his guitar playing is deceptively deft. On one song he is playing the bass line while he strumming so that he sounds like a two-piece band.

Then it's time for any songwriter to play a short set. Since there's an opening, I play, at Sam's urging, a few songs. They go over well I think. Then the three of us get in Sam's Cadillac and drive out West End Ave to the Commodore Lounge. Here, Debi Champion hosts her Songwriters' Night three days a week. Sam and Joe play. I only watch this time. As soon as they're done, we're off across town to Douglas Corner. Sam has signed us up by phone for the Songwriter's Night there. After listening to a few rounds - players go up four at a time and do two songs each - it's our turn. We're matched with a young woman from Philadelphia. Her first name is Kate. She has a strong voice and catchy songs.

Sam kicks our round off with "She's The Hurtin' Kind" and again I harmonize on it. He introduces me as being from Canada. I say, "Don't blame me. We're doing our part on the War On Terror. Only there's so damn many of them". It gets a laugh.

I say "I'm going to do a straight ahead love song in ¾ time for no particular reason" and launch into "I Never Loved 'Til That Night". I know it well enough that I can play with the phrasing a bit. My other song, when it comes around to my turn, is "Nothing Left To Say" a slow number that builds to a bittersweet conclusion, and I think it goes over well. B. Then to Douglas and played a couple of songs. Then back to Bobby's. Played again. Then dropped in on Mercy Lounge. Then went to Preston. Then White Castle. Then back to Sam's.

Day Five: Wednesday

Woke up at 7:08 with part of a melody in my head. And words! I lay there listening to the songwriter's radio station, that station that beams out faint but unmistakable signals at any time of the night or day, but only if you listen hard. In my head it was playing: "It's a fine line". Over and over. And then it added the next line: "It's a fine line / When to light a candle". This was good. I struggled up and got my guitar in the semi-darkness. I sat naked on the floor and leaned against the exposed brick wall, and played what I heard. Then, within minutes, I had the rest of the chorus and most of the first verse. I recorded what I had on my little Dictaphone afraid that it would all disappear when I was more awake. I played with it some more and then to energized to fall back asleep, I went for a run along the Cumberland River. I was thinking that I could finish this song on my own, I didn't need to take it to Sam for the morning writing session or to Judy in the afternoon. But then I made a strategic decision to take it to Sam and see if he wanted to help me finish it.

Here's the reasoning. Having a hit, to me is not about the money. It's about the experience, the process of getting there. Secondly, having Sam as a co-writer, given the fact he is based in Nashville at least part of the time, makes it more likely that this song will find a home. And third, I felt I owed Sam for all he's done for me and including him in the songwriter credits was my way of giving him something back.

So when I got back from my run, I knocked on Sam's door and said "I got a new song, I'll be over after getting a coffee and we can work on it". Which we did. As soon as I played what I had for Sam he said let's modulate the chorus up from the verse. In other words, with the verse in E, he played a transition chord that took the chorus up to G, which is the key I was playing the whole song in. Sam suggested changing some of the verse lines so they would tie in better with the words in the chorus.

Then we played with the various meanings of "fine lines". Pick up lines, lines on the road, and of course the original meaning of a hard to decide moral decision. This led us to change the chorus lyrics in order to use the various meanings of "fine lines". Sam then added some jazz-style chords that made up the bridge. My experiment with bridge chords were all too typical, the relative minor of the one chord, for example. "Too obvious!" said Sam.

We finished the first draft of the song. Then it was time to meet up with Judy Klas at the language school where she worked. Since I wanted to give Frank Hall a CD, and since he owned a restaurant, and since it was lunch time, we decided to go there.

Day Six: Thursday

Woke up at 7:30 the air mattress is deflated again. I try sleeping half on the rug and half on the bed. It's no use. I get up and inflate the damn thing again and fall back to sleep until Sam's knocking wakes me at 9:45. I shower, pack my stuff, and go to Sam's loft where he has the mic set up for me to record the scratch vocals for "Fine Line". I rasp and wheeze my way through it, good enough for Sam to work up the demo when he gets back to Jersey.

Then there's a hiccup in the plans. The Caddie won't start. Sam left an interior light on the night before and the battery is dead. He was going to drive me to my car where I left it at the Commodore after decided that the two (or three?) glasses of merlot Tamatha bought me precluded me from driving. But now it looks like I'll have to cab it to my car. Not a big deal since my flight is not until 2PM. Sam is supposed to meet an old friend he knew from Jersey at 11:30. She's half of a power couple, offices on Music Row. I don't catch all the titles and connections they have but it's big. Now Sam is trying to get AAA to get over to boost his car so everything can carry on as planned. With luck they DO get there in almost no time and we're on our way. The Caddie is acting strange, the motor is racing, the computer is not reading the functions properly, and Sam is preoccupied with getting the car fixed.

We shake hands in the parking lot of the Commodore. I thank Sam for helping me keep my dream alive. I owe him a lot. The contacts I've made, the experiences I've had are all in one or way or another traceable back to Sam's generosity. I head to the airport and Sam goes off to make his appointment with his friend.

It's been an intense week of not enough sleep, not eating proper meals, pushing ourselves to take advantage of my short visit. I can't imagine actually living here and keeping up even a minor form of this routine. Smoky bars are not conducive to seeing the world with any clarity. Sam figures after his roof top gig/schmooze party that he's hosting he'll be able to slow down somewhat. But still, by the end of the week he will be making the 15 hour drive back home, only to repeat it all a month later.

We're all part of a brother/sisterhood of dream chasers. Everyone's story is more or less the same. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, rich or poor, it's all about trying to write a better song than the last one, and getting a "hold", a "cut" and the holy grail itself, a "hit". It's a gold rush with a mother lode that doesn't seem to run out. As long as there's an audience for songs, the song providers keep on mining. The songwriters play the part of the wild-eyed would be miners, the music industry (including the session players, the producers, the bar owners, etc. etc.) play the role of the outfitters and like the gold rushes, they are the ones, for the most part, who make the steady money.

I'm exhausted. Satisfied but beat. The flight from Nashville is being called for boarding. I intend on sleeping on the plane. And with any luck, dreaming up another song.

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